A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[LINK] The first Chinese spacewalk, successful

36 years after China’s aborted 1972 Shuguang manned spaceflight program, the Chinese space program can claim another landmark achievement.

A Chinese astronaut Saturday became the first in his country’s history to complete a space walk, a feat President Hu Jintao hailed as a “major breakthrough” for the emerging space power.

Mission commander Zhai Zhigang left the Shenzhou VII spacecraft at 4:43 pm Beijing time (0843 GMT) to float in orbit for just under 15 minutes, making China the third country to complete a space walk after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

“I feel well,” said Zhai, the leader of the Shenzhou VII’s three-man crew, waving to a camera outside the spacecraft. “I am greeting the Chinese people and the people of the world.”

The space walk, broadcast live on television, was the highlight of the 68-hour voyage — China’s third manned foray into space — and considered an important step towards building a space station, China’s next major ambition in space.

“Your spacewalk was a complete success. It’s a major breakthrough in the development of our manned space programme,” Hu, standing inside the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre, told the astronaut by radio.

“The motherland and the people thank you,” Hu said in the televised conversation.

The spacecraft was now due to return to Earth on Sunday at 5:00pm (0900GMT), Wang Zhaoyao, spokesman for China’s manned space programme, told reporters.

The space walk was likely to stir up patriotic emotions ahead of China’s October 1 National Day, which will mark the 59th anniversary of the founding of the people’s republic.

Coming just days before the 50th anniversary of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, also on October 1, it also marked a potent symbol of the Asian giant’s emergence as a space power.

Zhai waved a small Chinese flag shortly after climbing out of the spacecraft 343 kilometres (215 miles) over the Earth, a highly symbolic move.

The United States, Russia, and now China have space agencies capable of launching (and returning!) people to low Earth orbit. Who will be next, do you think? (My money’s on either the ESA or India’s program.)

Written by Randy McDonald

September 27, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: